Ayatollah Khamenei’s unexpected visit to the family of a Christian Martyr

The mother says something in Assyrian to her son and Alfred asks the Leader doubtfully, “Do you eat home-made cake?” When The Leader says, “Yes” an extreme happiness becomes apparent on the mother’s face…The Leader takes a piece of cake and says to others, “It is very delicious. Do you not want to eat?

 “Hajj Khanoom [a Persian title to refer to a lady], I owe you an apology. The person who is going to pay a visit to your house in a few minutes is Mr. Khamenei.” The sentence was not finished that the mother’s tears began to flow down. The brothers, however, still need some time – as long as a few seconds – to digest this piece of news.  With the first words that Alfred and Albert uttered, the lump in their throats broke.

It is no wonder why they are surprised. They are surprised, just like us. When we entered the house, we saw that there were only two photos on the walls of this Christian family: one was Shahid Robert Lazar’s photo and another was a
photo of Imam Khomeini (r.a.) and the Leader. They were two old photos.

It is 6:30 in the evening and only the mother and the two brothers of the martyr are at home. The brides and the grandchildren have gone to the church to participate in Christmas Eve. The mother, who used to insist until a few minutes ago that we should eat their Christmas Eve fruits, sweets and nuts, is now insisting even more. Let us ease her worry, “Wait until the Leader comes and goes. Then we will clean the whole table for you.” A smile settles on her face and she goes and sits on the sofa beside the artificial pine tree. The house is very small and the mother is worried because the highest-ranking official of the country is going to enter such a small house. The officials in charge of the program, however, try to comfort her and say, “It is not an important thing.” They have asked permission to move the sofa and the lunch table so that there is more room. The martyr’s brothers too sit beside the mother.

Alfred starts a conversation, “It was in the year 1375. I was going from Kashan to Tehran when I had an accident. They took my documents to Qom. I went to Qom, but they said that the officer in charge has gone to Jamkaran. It was the month of Ramadan. I had two options. The first was to let go of it and go back to Tehran and to return a few days later or to go to Jamkaran Mosque (A mosque dedicated to Twelfth Imam). I said to myself, ‘I have been taking this road so many times, but I have not visited Jamkaran yet. Let’s go there.’ It was Wednesday night and the month of Ramadan. Jamkaran was jam-packed. I said, ‘Oh Imam of the Age, bring me news about my brother, either alive or martyred.’ I prayed to him although I did not know him. I saw that all the people were praying and so I thought to myself, ‘I would like to pray for my missing brother.’ At that time, someone turned up and offered me a bowl of Aash [Persian broth] and someone else gave me a piece of bread. To cut a long story short, I finished my business with the officer and I went back to Tehran. I was in Tehran on Wednesday. It was Thursday that they informed us from Miraj that my brother has come back and that he was going to be buried with 1,000 martyrs. The day after that was Quds Day, but my mother knew nothing of all this. However, she felt something in her heart. She had gone to Friday prayers to participate in the burial ceremony. The place was fully packed and no burial ceremony was like that. Many of our Muslim neighbors had come to participate in the burial ceremony of my brother. They had gathered in Marguivergiz Church. While they were performing sinezani (Mourn for the death of a Saint), they said, ‘Holy Jesus Christ is mourning today.’”

One of the officials steps forward and says, “Hajj Khanom, do you remember that in the year 1386, you used to say that you want to meet with the Leader? Now, the Leader is going to visit your house.” The mother who was not paying attention to what her son was saying, is not surprised at the title “Hajj Khanom” which was being repeated frequently. She is not paying attention and thinking about something else. She says, “I said to everyone that I wish the Leader would pay a visit to us or that we pay a visit to him.” Alfred goes and brings an old newspaper: “Local Hamshahri, District 11, 12th of Dey of 1386”. Half a page was specified to an interview with the martyred mother and it was written in a column, “In the frequent meetings that the mother has had with the officials of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, she has asked for a meeting with the Leader, but she has not received any answers. She loves to meet the Leader and she expects this to be done.”

It is past 7 in the evening. The mother began talking, “When I went to Rahian-e Noor (The visit made to Ira-Iraq war zones), I did not visit the place where my son was martyred. It was too far away. What is the difference? All martyrs are my children. We buried our son in the graveyard for religious minorities on Saveh Road. I frequently pay a visit to him. I was there two days ago and we go there on Easter Sunday and in 10-day Fajr celebrations as well. We go there to dust the place.”

It was at this moment that the Leader of the Revolution arrives. The mother goes to welcome him. The sons step forward and show respect. The mother says, “Greetings be upon you. Greetings be upon all the people of Iran.” And the Leader says, “May God protect you.” The mother responds, “In the light of your support.” And The Leader prays, “I hope that God will associate your child with His saints.” Everyone sits and the mother says, “My humble abode is full. I am very happy that you have come.” The lump in her throat does not allow her to continue. She pauses for a second and then continues, “I used to tell everyone that the Leader belongs to me as well. Does he only belong to Muslims? He is for everyone.”

The Leader of the Revolution apologizes for coming late and expresses his joy at holding this meeting at Assyrians’ celebration on Jesus birth anniversary. As usual, he asks about the martyr. Alfred replies, “Only a few days were remaining before he finished his military service, but he had refused to come back. He was martyred after the resolution. At first, they said that he has been held captive. Later on, when we went to his friend’s house, he said, ‘He was at the machine gun until the last moment. I insisted that we move back, he did not agree until a mortar shell struck our trench and he was wounded. We were held captive. They asked, ‘Where are the others?’ We answered, ‘No one is left.’ They hit me with the stock of a gun and I became unconscious. I regained my consciousness in Baqubah. I asked, ‘Have you brought anyone else with me?’ They answered, ‘No.’” And this was the beginning of eight years of lack of knowledge for the mother about her son.

The Leader says that all these are a source of pride not only for the family of the martyr but also for the entire country. He points out that the security of the country results from such jihadi acts. Pointing to the mother, he says, “Everyone knows about these things, but the important point is that behind this jihad, there is the jihad of this lady. This spirit is very valuable. Sometimes, someone shows so much impatience that prevents others from pursuing what he was doing, but the parents’ approval and his patience can create this atmosphere. Wherever I go, mothers usually have better morale than fathers. We men cannot understand mothers’ feelings. Men too love their children, but mothers’ love is different.” Alfred agrees with the Leader and says, “When I went to Miraj and looked at the body, I recognized it because my brother’s body was so big. I recognized him from his bones, but they said that his mother should confirm it.” The mother, now switching from her memories, says, “My son was a hero.”

The Leader of the Revolution continues his talk, “The Christian minority, both the Armenians and the Assyrians, have emerged victorious out of the Revolution and the war as loyal, wise, insightful and courageous Iranians.” The mother, who is gradually getting over her astonishment caused by the meeting, says, “In Kermanshah, they held a news conference. I said, ‘I cannot speak Farsi well.’ They replied, ‘It is alright.’ However I spoke better than everyone else. I said that Muslims and Christians should join one another to build Iran. I said that they should give me a gun so that I go and fight.” The Leader takes a look and says, “If they had given her a gun, she would surely have gone because she has strong morale.” The sound of laughter breaks the meeting’s ice. The mother continues, “I asked God to see a day when Saddam…” She is so kind that she cannot even finish the sentence. She pauses for a second and then having a lump in her throat says, “I saw the day and felt relieved.” She holds back her tears and continues, “This is because we were not people who wage a war. They themselves came and did all these.” The Leader expresses his agreement with the mother: “Others too will witness the same fate. They are not willing to tolerate our independence.”

The mother says something in Assyrian to her son and Alfred asks the Leader doubtfully, “Do you eat home-made cake?” When The Leader says, “Yes” an extreme happiness becomes apparent on the mother’s face. It is clear that she herself has cooked it. She says happily to the Leader, “Give me a task so that I go and serve my country.” The Leader says with a cheerful fac
e, “This statement of yours is a great task in itself. One of the responsibilities of prophets was to clarify and to explain. Many people take the wrong path because they do not know. If there is clarification, the path becomes clear. This characteristic of this lady and saying such things is a great task. Ladies accomplished great feats in the war. They went to the forefront and they engaged in nursing, but clarification is more important than everything else. This way of speaking, whether in the church or outside the church, and showing this moral is a very important task. I hope that God will bestow upon you a long life and that He will preserve you.”

The Leader takes a piece of cake and says to others, “It is very delicious. Do you not want to eat?” The mother and the two sons say together, “We are glad that you liked it.” The cake tray goes around and never returns. The mother says, “You should also eat fruits and nuts.” Then she says in an embarrassing tone, “My house is small…” But The Leader does not let her embarrassment continue, “It is one’s heart that should be large. When one has a goal, this is good no matter when one lives: ‘If you are with me, I am happy no matter where we are even if we reside deep in a well [from a poem by Rumi].’”

They give the Leader the newspaper in which the mother’s interview was published. He takes a look and asks, “What is the date?” When he hears that it is 1386, he says wistfully, “Why is it that old? I wish I could have come sooner. You could have come, I could have come.”

At this point, the conversation switches to the condition of Iranian Christians. Alfred says, “After the Revolution, the issue of religion was highlighted and in the present time, even Assyrians’ bishops are Iranians while they used to come from Iraq in the past. The Armenians’ bishops come from Lebanon. The Leader of the Revolution remembers the late Armenian bishop, Arak Manukian who joined Imam Khomeini (r.a.) in the beginning of the Revolution. Then, he speaks about the Assyrians whom he believes are the most ancient Christians after the Christians of Lebanon [the birthplace of Holy Jesus Christ (a.s.)]. Then they speak about the Assyrian language and its similarity to Arabic, Hebrew and even Farsi. Alfred puts aside the fruits and nuts on the table and shows the embroidered linen on the table on which it was written in Aramaic, “Eidukhun ho brikha.” “It means ‘May your new year be auspicious.’” He said. The Leader takes this as a sign that these languages are similar to one another and says that eidukhun is close to Eid and brikha is similar to barkat [auspiciousness and blessedness].

It is time to say goodbye and the Leader of the Revolution offers a gift to the mother of the martyr and says, “I hope that, God willing, your new year will be auspicious. It was a good night.” The mother and the children say together, “It was very memorable for us.” The Leader replies, “We give the Holy Quran to Muslims as a gift. If I could find a good Bible, I would have brought it.” The present Bibles are narratives, not revelatory words. Of course, John, Luke, Petrus and others are all great Christian personalities, some of whom were martyred. It was they who brought Christianity to Iran, Rome and other countries. Otherwise, Christianity was for the east. There were prophets and vice-prophets among them. The Apostles are among the great personalities of religion. In Islam, anyone who denies the immaculateness of Hazrat Jesus and Hazrat Maryam is out of Islam. This is how we respect Christianity. Like the Holy Quran and Torah, the Bible has come from the heaven. However, today’s Bibles – the ones that I have read – are narratives, not things that have been sent down from the heaven. If I could find such a Bible, we would respect and hold it very dear.”

Albert, who was quiet almost during the entire meeting, says to the Leader of the Revolution when he sees that he is saying goodbye, “Dr. Ahmadinejad had paid a visit to our house. He said, ‘What do you need?’ and I answered, ‘Only the Leader’s health.’ That you have come here has a world of value for us.” The Leader of the Revolution replies, “Such self-sacrificing spirits are very valuable. Some people only have a materialistic outlook and they only know money, but these are spiritual things.”

As usual, The Leader asks permission to leave. He stands up and before leaving, he offers certain gifts to the martyr’s brothers so that they give them to their children. One of the individuals who was quiet says, “The martyr’s sister is in Urumia.” The Leader gives a gift to the mother so that she sends it to her daughter. Then, he says goodbye and sets out to meet with another family of a Christian martyr.

We were collecting our things when the mother held us to our initial promise. She distributes the fruits and nuts among the people and she does so insistently. We keep saying that the grandchildren will come from the church and you will be left with no treats, but she replies, “If they had told me that The Leader would come, I would certainly have bought a sheep to sacrifice it before his feet. These things are nothing.

(December 2015)


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